Eat Pray Love: Italy and Eating Your Way to Happiness

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Eat Pray Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is the Eat Pray Love Italy section about? What does Elizabeth Gilbert do in Italy and what does she learn?

In Eat Pray Love, Italy is the first stop on Elizabeth Gilbert’s journey. In Italy, Liz learns about the pleasure of simply living, and of course, about the beauty of good food.

Read more about Eat Pray Love, Italy, and Elizabeth Gilbert’s lessons from Rome and beyond.

Eat Pray Love: Italy and Its Pleasures

After her divorce was finalized, Gilbert left everything behind, including her on-again-off-again relationship with David, to go to Italy. She landed in Rome and moved into a studio, where she would stay for four months. She signed up for language classes and started language exchange lessons with a young man named Giovanni. 

During the Eat Pray Love Italy chapters, life in Rome was beautiful the first couple of weeks. Gilbert’s only desire while in Italy was to experience as much pleasure as possible, and her sole mission was to eat the best food she could find. Gilbert struggled at first to let go of her New England sensibilities that life was about hard work. The beauty of doing nothing, or bel far niente in Italian, went against her natural instincts. But this trip was about learning to enjoy life, so she worked hard to find the simple pleasures and appreciate them thoroughly. 

Gilbert’s pleasure-seeking was thwarted, however, after only 10 days in the Eat Pray Love Italy section. She was walking home, admiring the architecture and open displays of love, when she was hit with the sinking sensations of loneliness and depression. She’d stopped taking her antidepressants because she was finding such joy in Italy, but she realized she was not yet healed from the emotional traumas of her past. 

When Gilbert got home, guided by her loneliness and depression, she crawled under her covers in despair. Suddenly, her life seemed frivolous and sad. She didn’t know what she was doing and felt like a failure for her past relationships. She pulled out a small notebook and wrote a message asking for help. This notebook was where she had been communicating with the same voice from that night on the bathroom floor. Like always, the voice guided her to write a response. The message told her that she was loved, that she was not alone, and that she would always be taken care of. Gilbert felt her anxiety slip away and decided not to start her medication again. 

Finding Her Place in the World

While in Italy, Gilbert took many side trips to other regions of the country. She traveled through Parma, Bologna, and Montepulciano to taste the wonderful food and wine famous in those areas. She and a friend traveled to Naples to eat the best pizza in the world. Gilbert couldn’t believe how good the pizza was. Eating it was an other-worldly experience. She caught sight of herself in the window and almost didn’t recognize herself. True, she’d gained weight on her tour of eating. But mostly, the person reflected back looked happy. She hadn’t seen that person in a long time. This Eat Pray Love Italy section was monumental in changing her view.

On the way back to Rome, Gilbert realized not knowing where she stood with David was threatening her growth. She knew she had to officially end things with him. Part of her still longed for him, but she knew they made each other miserable. It wasn’t the right match. She wrote him a letter breaking things off, and he responded in agreement. It was the right decision, but it still broke her heart. 

Gilbert loved Rome, but it never quite felt like her city. When she told a friend about this, he said every city has a word. If you don’t encompass that word, you don’t belong in the city. Rome’s word was “sex,” which explained why Gilbert didn’t fit it. She’d taken a vow of celibacy for the duration of her trip to heal and figure out who she was. She didn’t know what her word was, but she’d experienced so much pleasure and opened up her heart to so much joy during the Eat Pray Love Italy section, she was certain it was no longer “depression.” For now, that was enough. She would continue seeking her word once she got to India.

Eat Pray Love: Italy and Eating Your Way to Happiness

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat Pray Love" at Shortform .

Here's what you'll find in our full Eat Pray Love summary :

  • Why Elizabeth Gilbert needed to divorce her husband
  • How she was able to find joy again in Italy
  • How Gilbert was able to find balance with Felipe

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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